The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland Limited

BA Launches Learning & Development Project

The BA has today announced the launch of a new learning and development project for booksellers, BA Learning, its first formal learning and development offering in over 20 years.
BA Learning will bring all current development resources together in one place, BA Learning Skills Hub, including the BA’s Practical Guides, recorded conference and events sessions, and work from the UCT Mentoring programme and other strands. The platform will also feature new content and resources, in a variety of formats, making the BA Learning Skills Hub the go-to place for learning and development tools for booksellers, with the BA working with a number of partners to develop and launch the project. As well as this online content, the BA will be funding the provision of a Bookshop Owners Coaching Programme, drawing on a successful pilot with Retail Trust in 2021.
The project manager for BA Learning, working on a freelance basis, is Sheila O’Reilly, former owner of Dulwich Bookshop, previous BA Council Member and an Unwin Charitable Trust (UCT) Mentor. Sheila is working with focus groups of booksellers to develop the project, supported by Ed Peppitt, a professional content creator and publishing consultant. The learning platform for the BA Learning project will be provided by the Independent Publishers’ Guild (IPG) Skills Hub, in a collaboration between the BA and the IPG, with bookseller resources being hosted on the IPG’s tried and tested platform.
Meryl Halls, Managing Director at the Booksellers Association, said: “We have been planning a learning and development project for a long time, and are thrilled to be working with Sheila, Ed, and the IPG team, as well as other friends and partners across the industry, to build a single place for bookseller skills resources, repurposing the excellent content we already have and creating new materials. The purpose of BA Learning is to provide what bookshop owners – and their booksellers – need in order to be better bookshops and run effective businesses, and we will be working with booksellers throughout this project to ensure we’re providing the right topics in the right format. I am genuinely excited that we are able to bring this project to the launchpad – it’s been a long time coming, particularly with COVID related delays, but we are ready now to work with our members and our partners to create a really valuable resource, at exactly the right moment for our members.”
Andy Rossiter, President of the Booksellers Association, added: “The launch of BA Learning is an important moment for booksellers and I’m really pleased to see this happen during my Presidency.  Booksellers are so mutually supportive and full of expertise and experience – it will be great to see the BA Learning Skills Hub become the go-to place to source all the resources we need to be better booksellers.”
Bridget Shine, Chief Executive of the IPG, commented: “The IPG is delighted to be supporting this important project for the BA and its brilliant members. We know from experience just how important training and professional development is to independent publishers, and through the IPG Skills Hub we have worked hard to bring it within the reach of every company, regardless of size or location. BA Learning will achieve the same for our many friends in bookshops, and in an industry that is evolving so fast it will be an invaluable initiative for booksellers’ knowledge and upskilling.”

Sheila O’Reilly, BA Learning Project Manager, said: “I am delighted to be part of the BA Learning project. The BA already has considerable learning and information resources which, combined with newly commissioned content, will deliver a platform to help all booksellers as they strive to run great bookshops. After 20 years of direct involvement in bookselling, I am very excited to see this project begin and look forward to delivering it for BA members.”

Debbie James, owner of Kibworth Books and member of BA Divisional Board added: “Attending an online business summer school with the BRC last year reminded me of how much I love learning and how much I’ve missed it. It re-sparked my motivation and confidence which has ultimately lead to me opening a second bookshop in 2022. To think that the BA will be rolling out bespoke learning programmes, tailored to us booksellers is so exciting to me. I can’t wait to sign up.”
The BA has focused in recent years on ad hoc and events-focussed professional development, producing Practical Guides on a wide range of topics, from Virtual Events to Social Media, Community Activism to Working with Schools, as well as publishing A Complete Guide to Starting and Running a Bookshop. Other initiatives include providing an Introduction to Bookselling Training Course, tutored by former BA President, Patrick Neale, and partnering with the UCT to provide the UCT (Unwin Charitable Trust) Mentoring Programme, developed for booksellers, funded by UCT and promoted by the BA. In addition, the BA has a large bank of resources based on conference and events sessions, recordings of various digital events, and runs a year-round programme of in-person sessions at London Book Fair and at all other BA conferences and events.  The BA is also working with other partners in the industry, including, and Edelweiss, to share expertise and skills within the bookselling community.
The BA aims to go live with BA Learning at London Book Fair 2022 in April, with Sheila O’Reilly currently liaising with groups of booksellers and developing the project.